Much of what cooking means to me has to do with joy — with the food, recipes, the process, and the final reveal as you plate the food and set it on the table for people to enjoy. Part of the delight is feeling grateful for the fact I can cook and have ingredients to do so. I think this is one of the reasons why I am drawn to Mary Berg and her cookbooks. And it’s not just me either — my daughter adores Mary Berg. For Katie, it began with Mary’s first television show Mary’s Kitchen Crush and then that love was solidified when her publisher, Appetite by Random House, sent me her first cookbook (Kitchen Party) along with some ingredients to bake her Food Processor Flourless Chocolate Cake (read the review and get the recipe here). Katie was 5 years old at the time and was completely convinced that the box was sent especially for her. As we baked that cake, Katie narrated the steps just as she’d learned from Mary by watching the show. It was such an enjoyable afternoon, and I was reminded that these fleeting moments spent in the kitchen with my daughter will hopefully foster a life long love of cooking for her.
This is what draws us to Mary Berg — her whole being is the epitome of joy and it is what infuses her work as a cookbook author and TV personality. What she describes in her introduction to Well Seasoned: “…my relationship with food is a forever love affair” is exactly what I feel myself and what I hope Katie will come to feel. What I appreciate about Mary’s recipes is that there are two components — the first is focused on nourishment and the second is about celebration — feeding the emotional hunger for connection between what is on the plate and who is sitting at the table. The recipes are also about making food memorable.
Well Seasoned is organized into 4 sections which are based on the seasons and how those seasons make us feel: Spring (Crisp, Light, and Lively), Summer (Bright, Fresh, and Classic), Autumn (Cozy, Hearty, and Nostalgic), and Winter (Rich, Savory, and Celebratory). The recipes for each section use readily available ingredients that are found at your local farmer’s market or nearest grocery store. As with her first book, Berg doesn’t indicate whether the recipes suit different dietary needs (gluten free, vegan, vegetarian) but there are a variety of delicious recipes for everyone to enjoy. As a vegetarian, I found many wonderful recipes to suit my vegetarian family.
We started our love affair with Well Seasoned back in the summer — Mary had shared her recipe for the Classic Ice Cream Sandwiches on a morning show in June and the sammies looked so good that Katie and I decided they’d be perfect as a last-day-of-school celebration treat. We decided to go bigger and roll the edges of the sandwiches in sprinkles! They were so easy to make with the no-churn ice cream and quick baking cake, we had them all ready to go for the end of school. And while some homemade ice cream sandwiches go the cookie route, I much prefer Mary’s cakey version because they remind me of the kind of ice cream sandwiches my mom would buy for us kids. You know the kind where the ice cream is extra creamy, and the soft cake sticks to your fingers! For me, food nostalgia is the best kind of nostalgia.
Weekend breakfast is my favourite part of the week because we can sit around, enjoy the Casey Kasem flashback to the ’80s countdown on the radio (89.9 The Wave here in Halifax) while enjoying good eats. Last weekend I whipped up a batch of Mary’s Almond Butter and Jam Waffles at Katie’s request. The batter contained both almond flour and almond extract (which smelled sooooo gooood while the waffles cooked) and the cooked waffles were topped with almond butter, jam (strawberry in our case), honey, and toasted sliced almonds. The recipe is a great play on that weekday breakfast favourite, peanut butter and jam on toast and, I ended up freezing the extra waffles which I toasted up in the toaster for us to enjoy throughout the week.
What I appreciate about Well Seasoned is that the recipes are categorized as being suitable for “breakfast through dinner” — who doesn’t love recipes that can be enjoyed anytime? One of my favourite Jack-of-all-meals recipes from the book are the Everything Bagel Drop Biscuits because they can be enjoyed with any meal. While I prefer to eat them in the morning with a side of scrambled eggs, they’re equally as good at dinner with soup (or if you’re like my daughter, these biscuits are a great after school snack). The lovely fluffy biscuit middle is thanks to the addition of cream cheese to the dough and the butter makes the outside golden and crisp. The best part? The Everything Bagel Topping, of course!
A couple of our favourite supper meals have come from the book — the Technically from a Can Tomato Soup with Savory Cheesy Churros and the ‘My Favourite Delivery’ skillet pizza. Both recipes feel like the best kind of comfort food and have helped to usher in the new season. With the warm days and cool nights that autumn has brought, I was happy to fire up the oven once again so that we could enjoy some delectable skillet pizza (this pizza dough bakes up pillowy with a nice crispy crust) — we took Mary’s advice and topped ours with green olives, pineapple, and pickled peppers. The perfect salty-sweet-spicy combo! Last night we had the soup with churros and while you might be wondering why a person would choose to deep fry on a weeknight, I found that the soup was simple to make which left time to get the churros ready. Since the dough is not too wet, there isn’t much spattering that happens and the resulting golden churros rolled in herbed parmesan cheese were the perfect thing to dunk in the soup! Homemade churros on a Monday? Heck yeah!
That double meaning in the title — Well Seasoned — referring to the times of year and the way to make food delicious — wonderfully describes what the cookbook is all about. Mary Berg continues to offer delicious recipes for the whole family to enjoy. Just at the beginning of autumn now, I’m looking forward to cooking through the seasons using Well Seasoned.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank Appetite by Random House for providing me with a free, review copy of this book. I did not receive monetary compensation for my post, and all thoughts and opinions expressed are my own.